By: Dr. Karen Stoufer
Last time we read about the three spiritual worldviews; guilt-innocence, fear-power, and honor-shame. (You can read about those here) We looked at how we humans have created systems to deal with these. However, God has the perfect solution for each of these; the gospel is truly three-dimensional as it addresses each of these.
We need to ask, what is God’s solution to guilt, to shame and to fear? And how can we present God’s solution to those in each of those cultures? Because presenting the gospel solution to guilt to someone whose primary issue is shame or fear, is presenting something they may see as irrelevant or they may be saved and accept the forgiveness of sin but not realize how the gospel relates to the rest of their lives.
Those of us from guilt-innocence cultures usually present the gospel something like this. (From HonorShame.com July 8, 2015)
The problem is sin and the result is guilt, which separates us from God. God’s solution to this separation is restitution, Jesus paying the price for our sin through his death on the cross, to which we respond with confession resulting in God’s forgiveness. That is absolutely a true presentation of the gospel. However, there is so much more to see in the riches of the good news of the gospel.
God’s solution to fear is that he has already defeated spirits and powers. Christ’s victory on the cross defeated Satan and death and God has made the power of the Holy Spirit available to us. (1 John 4:4 “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”) This is the good news or gospel to those living in bondage and fear.
In an honor-shame culture, the primary problem is unfaithfulness where people have broken the relationship with God and dishonored God. The result of this is shame. Shame and dishonor separate us from God. God’s solution to this shame is restoration. Jesus took our shame upon himself on the cross to reconcile our relationship with God. (Hebrews 12: 2 …”For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame”) Our response to this gift of restoration is to seek God’s face and honor Jesus with our allegiance. The result is honor as God exalts His children to share in His glory. (Psalm 8:4-5 “What is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him? You made him little less than God and crowned him with glory and honor.”) This view of Christ suffering our shame and inviting us to share in His honor and glory is also absolutely true.
When we present the God who can forgive sins to a lost world, and neglect to share that He also takes away our shame and gives us access to his almighty power, we have made it unnecessarily difficult for those seeking a loving God more powerful than their witchdoctors or who can erase their shame.
North America and Western Europe are strongly guilt-based cultures and mainline protestant, evangelical and Catholic churches have appealed to those cultures. In the last 100 years, these areas have gone from 95% Christian to 81% Christian.
Sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are strongly fear-based cultures. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches that stress the power of the Holy Spirit generally appeal to these cultures. In the last 100 years, these areas have gone from 16% Christian to 62% Christian.
Most of Asia, North Africa and the Middle East (most of the world’s population) are strongly honor-shame cultures. 100 years ago there were 2.7% Christians there. After years of missionary effort and sacrifice, they are still largely unreached with only 8.5% Christian. There are many reasons for this; including geography and politics, but we must also consider if it is because we have not presented the gospel in a way that addresses the culture’s desire to restore honor.
This is not only relevant to Asia and Africa. Honor-shame dynamics are becoming more prevalent here in America as well, especially among millennials. (HonorShame.com Feb 8, 2017) A recent survey shows that moral shame among teens is 38% greater in American teens than those over 60.
All of us can grow spiritually when we recognize the 3D nature of the gospel. God sent Jesus into the world to forgive our sins, to give us power, to remove fear, and to restore us to honor as His sons and daughters. If we really understood who we are in Christ, and who He is, we would not so easily fall prey to fear, shame, a low self-image or sin. To know God better, I recommend the book, The 3D Gospel by Jayson Georges and the website HonorShame.com